It's been almost a year since Rochester's school superintendent, Manuel Rivera, unveiled his ambitious surround-care plan for the northeast quadrant of the city. Rivera's concept, which he modeled after the Harlem Children's Zone, targets the environmental conditions that produce generations of children who enter school unprepared to learn.
The northeast area continues to experience high rates of homicide, unemployment, drug use, and school dropouts --- the types of problems the Rochester Children's Zone was envisioned to address. So where is it now?
The short answer: it's still in the design and planning phase, though Rivera insists it's not stuck.
"I would like to see the process move faster," he said last week, "but in the long term, we must make sure that we are including the community in the plan. I would rather that we take a little longer to get that commitment than to try to go forward without it."
Here's what's happened so far:
• To help build community consensus, the district hired the Massachusetts-based Interactive Institute for Social Change, which specializes in getting business, government, and non-profit organizations to work together.
Rivera says the company is working with community representatives such as Darryl Porter (assistant to Mayor Bob Duffy), Hilda Escher (IBERO American Action League), and Roderick Jones (Community Place of Greater Rochester) to identify the first set of problems the Children's Zone will try to address.
• The Rochester Children's Zone has been set up as a non-profit organization, which does two things. It avoids having the district be the sole overseer of the Children's Zone. And it deflects concerns about giving money directly money to the school district, something some community leaders have been reluctant to do. As a separate entity, the Children's Zone will handle its own fundraising, which Rivera says will kick off in June.
But money remains a problem for the Children's Zone, and Rivera concedes he's still a long way from the $1 million he believes is needed for getting it operational. The district has sent letters out asking for grant money, but hasn't received much response. And the money the district gets from Albany for its annual budget can't be used for the Children's Zone.
Money is one of the reasons it's taken this long to get the Children's Zone off the ground, says Jana Carlisle, chief planning officer for the district. For the Children's Zone to be successful, local community organizations will need to commit to it. And that means they'll need to direct some of their own financial resources to it. Those are big hurdles, because the Children's Zone is not without its critics.
"The school district doesn't have the prerogative of dictating to other agencies what they should do with their financial resources, but we can't continue to work in separate silos," says Carlisle. "Many of our agencies are going to have to change. We're going to have to look at all of our resources to see how we can all be more effective working together."
United Way's executive vice president, Bill McCullough, agrees. He is on the Children Zone's design and planning team, and United Way gave the district the money to hire the Interactive Institute.
"We've all heard the same messages from Maggie Brooks at the county level, Mayor Duffy at the city level, and Dr. Rivera at the school district," says McCullough. "Budgets are extremely tight all the way around. So we have to make the Children's Zone work with the resources that we already have."
--- Tim Louis Macaluso
Break out your Adidases, Kangols, and gold chains: we're going back to the early days of hip hop for this year's Music Fest (July 7-9 at High Falls and Frontier Field).
Sampling innovator DJ Marley Marl and members of the Juice Crew open for early rap supergroup Whodini Friday, July 7, at High Falls. Expect the freaks to most certainly come out that night. Saturday, July 8, the event moves to Frontier Field and things get a little more current with a performance by American Idol 2004 winner Fantasia, who recently played Rochester as part of the WDKX 32nd anniversary bash, plus R&B artists Avant, Cassie, Cherish, LaToya, Ray J and Mila J. Sunday, July 9 (also at Frontier Field), wraps up with Cameo, R&B icon Charlie Wilson, Heather Headley, "Best of My Love" chanteuses The Emotions, and brothers K-Ci & JoJo, auteurs of the screechy "All My Life."
However, that's not the full line-up. Festival operators WDKX, who took over this year after the city decided to go with a local promoter for the event, said that several headliners had yet to be locked down by the May 9 press conference. Rumors abound that heavyweight hip hop throwbacks Doug E. Fresh and Biz Markie ("Just a Friend") will also join the party, as well as Idol 2003 winner Ruben Studdard and Big Daddy Kane. For more information check out rochestermusicfest.com or call 262-2050, ext. 116.
--- Frank DeBlase
and Eric Rezsnyak
Time is running out for artists to sign up for the Corn Hill Landing public art competition. Local sculptors looking to make a mark on the mixed-use waterfront project have just one informational meeting left, at 2 p.m. Saturday, May 13, at 290 Exchange Boulevard. Entries must be received on Friday, June 9, between 2 and 6 p.m. at 270 Exchange Boulevard. A panel of judges will pick a winner, who will receive $70,000 to create the artwork and transport it to the site. Info: www.cityofrochester.gov; click on "Other," then "What's New," and finally "Call for Entries."
It's a one-way trip for Rochester's ferry.
The Spirit of Ontario will set sail soon for Europe and its new master: Euroferries Limited, which plans to use the ship on the English Channel. In exchange, the city will receive $29.8 million --- in cash. "We didn't want any continuing entanglements here," said the city's attorney, Tom Richards, at a meeting last week. Once the deal closes --- hopefully sometime this week --- the city will also no longer be responsible for the ship's $200,000 monthly costs. "With this good news, we can now redevelop Charlotte," said City Council President Lois Giess at a press conference last week.
That redevelopment will include finding new uses for the ferry terminal building. But remember Maplestar? That's the company that took over partial operation of the Terminal Building, back when the Canadian American Transportation System was still running the ferry. Then CATS had major problems, the city bought the ferry, and Bay Ferries took over the ship's operations. But Maplestar, a CATS affiliate, stayed.
During negotiations with CATS, the city signed the now-controversial "non-disturbance agreement." This little document states that even if the major tenant --- in this case, CATS --- left, the subtenants --- such as Abbott's and California Rollin' and Maplestar --- could stay. The non-disturbance agreement locked the city into a deal with Maplestar until 2044. For that right, the company pays the city $1 a year.
There are arguments for and against the bargain, but how will the city develop the terminal building with somebody else in charge of it? "There's not as much conflict there as might appear to be the case," reassures Richards. While Maplestar does have the legal right to do as it pleases with the Terminal Building's allotted commercial spaces, the city still controls the parts of the building that were used for ferry services, such as customs, the waiting area, and office space. And Richards says there is enough room for both Maplestar's tenants and other proposed projects, such as the Great Lakes Research Center.
Richards also says that there isn't much dispute over the Terminal Building's parking lot. Aside from a small portion, he says, the city controls most of that space. And for now, those spaces will remain free to the public.
What would happen if the city decided it needed to regain control over Maplestar's space? Richards demurs. "We'll deal with the ferry issue first," he says. "Then we'll deal with the Maplestar lease."
--- Sujata Gupta